Title

Bioarchaeological Contributions to the Study of Violence.

Document Type

Article

Abstract

The bioarchaeological record has an abundance of scientific evidence based on skeletal indicators of trauma to argue for a long history of internal and external group conflict. However, the findings also suggest variability, nuance, and unevenness in the type, use, and meaning of violence across time and space and therefore defy generalizations or easy quantification. Documenting violence-related behaviors provides an overview of the often unique and sometimes patterned cultural use of violence. Violence (lethal and nonlethal) is often associated with social spheres of influence and power connected to daily life such as subsistence intensification, specialization, competition for scarce resources, climate, population density, territorial protection and presence of immigrants, to name just a few. By using fine-grained biocultural analyses that interrogate trauma data in particular places at particular times in reconstructed archaeological contexts, a more comprehensive view into the histories and experiences of violence emerges. Moreover, identifying culturally specific patterns related to age, sex, and social status provide an increasingly complex picture of early small-scale groups. Some forms of ritual violence also have restorative and regenerative aspects that strengthen community identity. Bioarchaeological data can shed light on the ways that violence becomes part of a given cultural landscape. Viewed in a biocultural context, evidence of osteological trauma provides rich insights into social relationships and the many ways that violence is embedded within those relationships.